They and the other club nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at 38 on New Year's Eve 1972 with the crash of a plane aboard which he was personally delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 5. The fan-ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder. Voting fans will also be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, when the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy will be announced. The players prefer to contribute anonymously so their celebrity does not detract from their sincere motivation to help kids, the underprivileged, the ravaged or the ailing. As Baltimore's Melvin Mora, who distributes baseball equipment in his native Venezuela explained, "The only thing I would like to be recognized for is that I want all the players to see [what I do] so they can know that there's something out there they can do for the kids." Once a year, they emerge from behind the curtain for the spotlight of the Roberto Clemente Award, established in 2002 and presented to the player who combines outstanding skills on the baseball field with devoted work in the community. "It's an incredible honor," said the Mets' Wright. "Anything that comes along with a man that gave his life doing something for others is just incredible." "I never really thought much about that," said Kevin Millwood, referring to his selection as Texas' nominee. "I'm not out trying to win any awards. I just like the feeling of giving back and helping people who can't help themselves." Last year's winner, following the final season of a 20-year career that produced 3,060 hits, was Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros. "I applaud the 2008 Club winners of the Roberto Clemente Award," Selig said. "For the second season, Chevy will join us to remember the life and work of Roberto Clemente, and recognize this group of 30 players who represent the game of baseball, both on and off the field, in the spirit of this award." "Giving back," unstintingly, is the recurring motto of award nominees, who recognize the visibility of their status and want to use it beneficially. Playing for the team which Clemente distinguished, the Pirates' Jack Wilson feels a special connection to the city of Pittsburgh and its people. A contributor to numerous charitable organizations, Wilson said, "For me, it's something that I think I must do because it's a way for me to pay back a city that took me in when I was 22. Every phase of my life as an adult has been through Pittsburgh. And I'm very proud to be a Pittsburgh native. That's one of the ways that I can show my appreciation." "I always felt like, in playing in this game, you have a huge opportunity to give back to the community," said veteran outfielder Luis Gonzalez, the Marlins' nominee five years after having been Arizona's candidate. "It's always nice to play the game, but it's also nice to be known as a guy who is a normal person like anybody else." "Right now we're in position, a lot of us, to give back, and it's a good opportunity to get involved and help children out," said Webb, who, along with wife Alicia, started the K Foundation in 2004 to improve the quality of life of children suffering from critical and chronic illnesses. In December, the right-hander added Brandon's Locker to supply hospitalized children with comfort items.
"There are just so many things out there that you can do just to be able to help a few people," Webb said. "It makes them feel good, so whatever you can do to help is always a good thing."Players are also motivated in their charitable endeavors by acknowledging that their blessings -- both physical and financial -- are deprived from others. "When you go home, look at your children and see how healthy they are, it reminds you how lucky you are," said the Braves' Tim Hudson, whose causes include the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "I was blessed," said Pujols, whose Pujols Family Foundation aids people in St. Louis, and who will make a third pilgrimage to the Dominican after the season to lend some of the country's poorer areas health care and education. "We touched a lot of lives over there," Pujols said of his last sojourn. "The doctors, they were awesome. We saw a lot of kids, and a lot of kids, gave a lot of treatment to a lot of kids. It was exciting. It was exciting every day, from six o'clock to six o'clock working, just nonstop." Damon, born to a military father at Fort Riley in Kansas, is national spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project. They all help, however they can. "I can drive a nail," said the Rangers' Millwood, who joined a Habitat for Humanity crew last offseason. "Helping put a roof on a house was pretty cool. Working on the house and spending time with the family that was moving into it, that was a lot of fun." So these distinguished players accept their standings as role models -- and as instruments of peer pressure. "That little bit of guidance, just because you gave that little bit of time now, can be huge in one's life," said Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena, who teams with Foundacion Lumen 2000 to distribute school supplies, sports equipment, and medicine to underprivileged kids in his native Dominican Republic. "Maybe it encourages others to offer up their time as well," Pena added. "It's like a chain reaction; if I do it, maybe somebody else will get inspired and wants to help and then someone else wants to help. Next thing you know you have a whole community willing to help." Chevy will donate $30,000 and a Chevy vehicle to the national winner's charity of choice and an additional $30,000 will be donated by Chevy to Roberto Clemente Sports City, a not-for-profit organization in Carolina, Puerto Rico, designed to provide recreational sports activities for children. Additionally, Chevy will donate $7,500 to the charity of choice of each of the 30 Club recipients. "Roberto Clemente was an amazing player on the diamond, and an even better man off the field," said Ed Peper, the North American vice president of Chevrolet. "Chevrolet is privileged and honored to sponsor the award that bears his name, and on behalf of our 3,900 dealers, we congratulate all of this year's award winners. "These 30 leaders help to keep Roberto's legacy alive," Peper added, "by selflessly giving back to their communities in so many ways."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.